Musician-activist Simon Tam to discuss Supreme Court battle July 20


Simon Tam started as a musician who simply wanted to make a statement with the name of his band. He wound up in a legal battle that took him to the Supreme Court – and now he’ll share the experience and what he learned during an appearance at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on July 20.

Tam, who is Asian American, founded a rock band called The Slants, a name meant to seize control of the slur and drain its power. But the U.S. Patent Office refused to let Tam trademark the name because of its offensive history. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, however, and kept fighting until he won his case at the nation’s highest court.

Tam has written a book about his years fighting over the band’s name. “Slanted: How an Asian American Troublemaker Took on the Supreme Court” provides a raw look at our legal system and offers timely insights on freedom of speech and the power of music.

"His compelling memoir is about keeping true to his punk-rock heart and making history,” the Washington Post said.

As a speaker, Tam has been featured at TEDx, Stanford University, SXSW and hundreds of other events. His ALPLM presentation will feature the wit and passion that made him a hit elsewhere – and it may even include a musical performance – making it appropriate for adults and teens alike.

The July 20 event is free and will be offered both online and in person at the ALPLM’s Union Theater at 6:30 p.m. Reserve your seats at During registration, guests will have the option to pick an in-person or virtual ticket. Guests attending in person can purchase Simon's book and have it signed, or bring their own copies to be signed.

Teachers who attend will qualify for 1.5 CPDUs.

This program is offered in conjunction with the ALPLM exhibit “The State of Sound: A World of Music from Illinois.” The exhibit explores music and musicians from Illinois through videos, rare artifacts, personal documents and more. It runs through Jan. 23, 2002.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in Lincoln’s life and times. The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.

For more information, visit or follow the ALPLM on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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